- The movement that swept European and thence American culture between about 1775 and 1830, although heralded by preceding elements in the 18th century (antiquarianism, novels of sensibility, the taste for the sublime and the picturesque, and above all Rousseau's elevation of nature and sentiment above civilization and intellect). Romanticism was partly a reaction against the stiff rationality of the Enlightenment and its official, static, neo-classical art, in favour of the spontaneous, the unfettered, the subjective, the imaginative and emotional, and the inspirational and heroic. In philosophy, the Romantics took from Kant both the emphasis on free will and the doctrine that reality is ultimately spiritual, with nature itself a mirror of the human soul. In Schelling, nature becomes a creative spirit whose aspiration is ever fuller and more complete self-realization. Knowledge of the nature of this spirit (the Absolute) cannot be acquired by rational and analytic means, but only by emotional and intuitive absorption within the process. The spontaneous innocence of the child (and of humanity in its childhood) is corrupted with the onset of intellectual separation from nature, but the individual, and equally human history, can overcome this separation by a spiral process of regaining the lost unity, albeit cleansed and improved by the journey. Romantic art is thus essentially one of movement, figured in quests, journeys, and pilgrimages whose aim is to return to a lost home or haven. Coleridge and de Staël were the main vehicle for the transmission of German philosophical Romanticism to England. Although a movement of more general cultural importance, Romanticism drew on the same intellectual and emotional resources as German idealism, as it culminates in the philosophy of Hegel and of absolute idealism.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.